Friday, February 11, 2011

If any are interested in arcana and in Latin...

I liked Spanish, in fact quite a lot. I started studying Latin in school but had to leave, and unfortunately my Spanish has suffered quite a lot since--worse for me because I used a lot of the knowledge gained there to peer into other languages with shared features. My only contact with native speakers often consists of people with vocabularies almost totally unlike that which is taught in schools, so though semi- regular, it doesn't help much. To use the words of a Columbian I was talking to, "I can't understand the Mexicans".

On the bus, to and fro work, I've taken up Latin again. I plan on devouring it heavily and then to move onto its linguistic aspects and development through to various modern Romance languages (hello again Spanish!). Following is a poem of "Catullus" written to himself and to a woman he calls "Lesbia" (in an earlier section) after the nom de plume of the famed Greek, strong-willed, intellectual "Sophos" (who is, by that appelation, implied to be like the famed Greek personality). My own Latin isn't progressed very far, the book reading is a heavily altered version of this, but I liked to look up the originals. It also has traits by which I can explain why I liked Spanish for cross-language purposes: even being classical Latin, an artificial literary dialect developed and maintained despite major difference from the spoken language, and thousands of years old, one can spy the imperfect by knowing the Spanish version, "uentitabas"; another example of cross-language insighting would be the uses of subjunctive in Spanish to express the beginning of something, which once is known, can be seen in other languages as well, whereas the beginner thinks a subjunctive is just some hard formed fixed to tell of hypotheticals or oughts: the beginning of the scene on the mount in the beatitudes (i.e. in Greek) for instance uses the subjunctive this way, (though it's never well translated into English). How interesting it will be, I think, to grapple with Classical, and then move into the Vulgate and related literatures where nonliterary Latin was purposefully employed to be more accessible to the masses, and compare that with Spanish and other romances.

The poem reveals that, just as in the days of Sophos, and just as in ours, lovers dealing treacherously and abandoning their mate, and the longing and perhaps bitterness that arises in the abandoned, was just as much a tragic part of life as now. It is, in fact, one of the great "secrets" of Roman times, that is, people think all the women were just cloistered up and suppressed from doing anything, when in fact in the empire sex relations were not altogether different than they are now; if there were restrictions on the fairer sex, there was nevertheless a period the modern woman, raised on feminist values and expectations (even most who deny being one who don't realize the changes that have taken place socially in the last several decades and how even the assumptions are very different from what they were before), might not mind--except for the greater hardship of living due to less developed technology--visiting or dwelling in if it were possible.

Actually, superficial readings of text and presumptions brought to it have, in the post-advent world, obscured these facts, even when knowledgeable authorities on history, Christian or otherwise, have tried to dispel such myths. Or put another way, bad apologetics by ignoramouses meant to accomodate secular and modernist tastes have betrayed known and valid history (lied) in the name and service, supposedly, of truth. All the more comical when when pretenses are made about politically incorrect passages in Scriptures about women not to offend the feminists in the audience of "believers", though to be fair many such preachers just don't know better, having received misinformation from commentaries perpetuating traditions of commentaries. It's for such reasons that many of the schools now considered the "Ivy League", e.g. Harvard, were founded, such that ministers would not be unlearned and so err. In such cases as un-pc passages of Scripture on women and how they've been popularly mishandled, just a glancing, cursory course of Latin which introduces one to the culture of the first century empire (in my case, first through Oxford's slim little course volumes), or a course dedicated to that culture, could dispel many myths though it might reduce the numbers of congregations and effectiveness of growing those numbers since, after all, what is Christian, genuinely Christian, is now truly and deeply offensive in our societal environment. E.g. rather than appearing to her ego some day, telling a woman about Christ, fail to tell her all about how God loves her and she's a princess and instead speak of wretchedness and adultery and you'll probably get slapped. I remember a group effort of friends putting out fliers on Valentines day telling girls how wonderful they are and how God loves them and the positive responses, but understand now from the context we live in and how those would be taken by the usual American narcissist that it should have made me wince.

Catullus 8

Miser Catulle, desinas ineptire,
et quod uides perisse perditum ducas.
fulsere quondam candidi tibi soles,
cum uentitabas quo puella ducebat
amata nobis quantum amabitur nulla.
ibi illa multa cum iocosa fiebant,
quae tu uolebas nec puella nolebat,
fulsere uere candid tibi soles.
nunc iam illa non uolt: tu quoque inpote,
nec quae fugit sectare, nec miser uiue,
sed obstinata mente perfer, obdura.
uale, puella. iam Catullus obdurat,
nec te requiret nec rogabit inuitam.
at tu dolebis, cum rogaberis nulla.
scelesta, uae te, quae tibi manet uita ?
quis nunc te adibit ? dui uideberis bella ?
quem nunc amabis ? cuius esse diceris ?
quem basiabis ? cui labella mordebis ?
at tu, Catulle, destinatus obdura.
--From, The poems of Catullus By Gaius Valerius Catullus, Peter Green. 

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